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Sunday, August 14, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 12:49–56
“I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain,’ and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (NRSV)
This scripture seems baffling at first glance, given that we call Jesus the Prince of Peace. But what if division is a side effect of working for peace?
Jesus mentions the baptism with which he will be baptized, by which he means his crucifixion. That “baptism” to come, his own torturous death, will expose the evil that humans are capable of perpetrating against other human beings. To be “peaceful” in the face of such evil would be to embrace a false peace, a passivity, and it would reflect a failure to resist or renounce evil.
As Jesus brings the good news of God’s in-breaking kingdom, those who are comfortable with how things are will be at odds with those who want change. This is division between people because of the movement toward justice, not division for the sake of division. Jesus’ purpose is “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). This proclamation and this liberation is going to be divisive.
Jesus asks the crowds, “Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” And in the next sentence, which isn’t included in our scripture today, Jesus goes on to ask, “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:57). In interpreting the present time, we must continually contemplate and discern the things that make for peace and justice. What is the next right thing that we might do?
God of Justice and Prince of Peace, guide my heart and illumine my thoughts as I try to interpret the present time. Give me a spirit of humility, so that I do not create divisiveness where there could be unity and respect. And give me a spirit of conviction, so that I do not shy away from justice out of fear of conflict. Amen.
Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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